The reestablishment of the lake Rusasetvatnet in Ørland based on plans developed by NIBIO, is Norway's largest environmental restoration project for wetlands. Now, the ground-breaking project has been chosen as a candidate for a prestigious European landscape price.
The Rusaset-project in Trøndelag county is one of the largest landscape rehabilitation projects in Norway’s history. It was started by the Ørland municipality and involved the re-establishment of the lake Rusasetvatnet and the adjoining landscape and wildlife habitat in the Ørland wetland system.
Now, the Rusaset-project has been chosen to represent Norway as a contender for the Landscape Award of the Council of Europe; an award intended to raise civil society’s awareness of the value of landscapes, of their role and of changes to them.
Many areas drained
Nature restoration is necessary to slow down, stop and most preferably reverse the negative trend of loss of nature. This has been established by the Nature Panel (IPBES) and the Climate Panel (ICCP) in their global knowledge reports. That is why the UN has decided that 2021-2030 will be the international restoration decade.
In Norway, many wetland areas have been drained, with a negative impact on both biodiversity and access to nature for people in the local environment.
When the Rusaset-project was initiated, there was very little left of the lake, the former source of drinking water for the municipality:
-It was more like a puddle, and most of the natural landscape in the area had been taken over by agriculture. A new zoning plan for the area was adopted in 2005, and NIBIO (then Bioforsk) was hired to create a restoration plan for the lake Rusasetvatnet and the surrounding area. The aim was to safeguard the interests of both outdoor life and bird life, while at the same time securing agriculture in the area, says Håkon Borch, head of research – Division of Environment and Natural Resources at NIBIO.
The project involved the re-establishment of lake Rusasetvatnet in approx. 250 daa, together with creating habitat for birds and wildlife as well as an area for outdoor activities in the period 2014-2017.
-The project has also led to several follow-on projects in the immediate area in the form of hiking trails that connect all hamlets with the lake, and the restoration of marshes, Borch comments.
Balances biodiversity and outdoor life
After the re-establishment, the area has regained its natural diversity and balances the arrangement for both biodiversity and outdoor life. This has made it an example for other restoration-projects in Norway and created interest internationally.
- Now, an increasing number of municipalities in Norway i considering rehabilitating land that has previously been wetlands, in order to bring back wildlife and create new outdoor areas, Borch claims.
He is thrilled that the Rusaset-project has been recognised by being nominated for such a prestigious award:
-For us it has been a very fun project to work with, not least because it became so well anchored in the municipality, the agriculture office and the landowners that they wanted to re-establish lake Rusasetvatnet. Locally, Berit Langdahl Andresen at the Agriculture Office has been a key person who has contributed to driving the process and the project forward. Without an enthusiastic project bearer, such projects often die off before they are realised. She has been instrumental in making this happen. Over time, more people have also joined and contributed to the implementation, and it is great to see that such a strong local commitment to nature restoration is being built, Borch emphasizes.
-As spinoff from the engagement in Rusasetvannet, a number of other smaller nature restoration projects have emerged for NIBIO in the Austrått area, where we have worked on the design and construction of dams for biodiversity, etc.
-The fact that this project has now been nominated for the Council of Europe landscape Convention Landscape Award is very well deserved, he concludes.
Rusasetvatnet is part of Austrått's selected cultural landscape. It is part of the Ørland wetland system and is particularly important as it is the only fresh water in this. Ørland wetland system is an IPA area (Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas). Around the turn of the millennium, the water had drained and was about the size of a puddle. After the re-establishment, it has regained its natural diversity.
Landscape Award of the Council of Europe
Opened to the Parties to the European Landscape Convention, the Landscape Award of the Council of Europe is intended to raise civil society’s awareness of the value of landscapes, of their role and of changes to them.
The Council of Europe's Landscape Prize shall reward a policy or measure implemented by local or regional authorities and their groupings, or particularly notable contributions from voluntary organisations, for the lasting protection, management and/or planning of landscapes. The award must be given to a policy or measure that can serve as an example for other countries, and which ensures landscape qualities and increases society's awareness of landscape values and what affects the landscape. Each country that has ratified the Council of Europe's Landscape Convention can nominate a candidate. The prize is awarded every two years.
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